Principles

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Poke leaned hard in the saddle. I could see his face was chalk-white underneath the beard and sunburn.

“You don’t look so good, pard,” I said.

“Don’t feel so good, neither. That goddamn bitch with the scattergun.”

“You can’t say I didn’t warn you. You had plenty of time to shoot her.”

Poke looked annoyed, as he always did when I pointed out his errors. “Didn’t want to shoot no woman, Cal.”

“But shoot her you did.”

“Only after she shot me.”

“She’s dead all the same, but now you’re gut-shot in the bargain.”

He grimaced. “I got my principles, Cal.”

We rode on for a while, him sighing now and again. I trotted up beside him and pulled open his coat. “Goddamn, Poke. You’re bleeding like a pig. Let’s stop so I can get a look at that.”

“Not yet. We need to put some distance between us and them.”

What Pegman Saw: Colorado

Spun Sugar

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Your good mood

will you mind

if it doesn’t last forever?

When you get laughing

you must know

 

it all has to end sometime

 

spun sugar stays fluffy only

as long as it stays dry

but sooner or later

you find out

it’s a rainy climate

 

The Daily Post

Keeping Appearances

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“Am I waking you up?”

“I had to get up anyway, Dad. The phone was ringing.”

“Ha. Listen, I need you to do something for me.”

“Name it.”

“I need you to come over and shovel the walk.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now. Before your mother wakes up.”

“It’s four in the morning.”

“I know what time it is. I need you to do it. If your mother wakes up and sees I haven’t done it, she’ll think all kind of things.”

“Dad.”

“The doctor said I can’t shovel. Something about the bones.”

“You’re going to have to tell her.”

“Not yet.”

 

Friday Fictioneers

 

He Showed Me Something

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Clive had made a little clubhouse in the attic from various chairs and lamps.

We would sometimes play at marriage.

We lay on the floor.

I looked over at him. He was a handsome boy, in the English way.

Blue eyes and creamy skin.

I rolled over and kissed his pink lips.

He flew into a rage. He said that it was depraved and I should never do anything like that again.

He rushed out and slammed the door behind him.

I next saw him years later. He’d grown much taller and even more handsome.

I didn’t think he would want anything to do with me, but he beckoned me over.

He told me he was to start Eton in the fall. He was nervous about it.

told him that Eton was a very good school and I was sure he’d be fine there.

In a strange dead voice he told me that most of the time he couldn’t really feel anything, that he only pretended to feel things.

He could imitate people laughing, crying, being happy, but inside he felt numb.

He said I was his only friend, the only human being with whom he’d ever felt a connection.

You see, he was raised by the servants. A lonely boy, but so wealthy that it was difficult to feel sorry for him.

His father inherited the title, as he would in his time.

He said he wanted to show me something very special to him, but he was afraid I wouldn’t understand.

 

Sunday Photo Fiction

The Martyrdom of St. Valentine

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Errico knelt by the Vespa and snapped the hose back into place.  He stood and pulled a rag from his back pocket, wiping his hands. “Try it now,” he said.

Enzo threw his leg over the scooter and kicked down on the starter. The motor caught at once, belching out clouds of white smoke that filled the alley. He beamed at his friend. “You’re a genius!”

“It was only a plugged fuel line.”

“I couldn’t fix it. I tried, too.” Enzo smiled. “If I get a car, we can double date. Only room for one girl here,” he said, patting the seat behind him. “Ciao.” He gunned the Vespa, waving as he tore out  into the square.

Errico wasn’t interested in a double date. He wanted Enzo alone.

He wanted his eyes and his shoulders, his white teeth and full lips.

Errico was used to wanting what he could never have.

 

What Pegman Saw

Curiosity

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At first it seems mere curiosity, innocent and natural enough, this child’s questions. But he is abject, insatiable. His mother humors him, but the questions soon define the sharp edges of her ignorance.

What is the sun, Mama? Where do people go when they die? Why can’t I hear the thoughts of others? Does God get bored with prayers? Why does He allow evil in this world if he is all-powerful? Isn’t hell a form of eternal life?

She has no answers, feels as though her son has questioned her onto a crumbling cliff, an abyss yawning beneath her.

She retreats to solidity of the church where the priests clearly define the known and unknown, accepting both without reservation or questions. She loses herself in their certainty, accepting the necessary damnation that comes with it.

Fence Line

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The matted grass so dense the fencepost
I hammer rings jerking
from the peen, waving
like a stormborne mast

until at last it punches through
the clang turned to thud
soft and unresisting
wounding the hillside

Weak now, my hands
ache as I stretch them
in their rotten gloves
twisted and black like river trees

Away over my shoulder
my ricket fence line trails the hills
uncertain, stapling the plain
slipshod

so when I finish this
I must start again lest
it keep out nothing
let in  everything.

 

The Daily Post: Tour Guide

Pollos

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Enrique was appalled when he saw his cousin’s pack. He walked around it, whistling.

“What do you have in here, Hectór? Furniture?”

The boy shrugged, or tried to against the weight of the straps.

“You know we’re walking, right?”

“Not all the way, Rico.”

“The boat takes us only to Salina Cruz. After that, the coyote will see about finding us a truck. No guarantees, though.”

Hectór looked close to tears.

“What’s so important you need to bring it to El Norte, cousin?”

The boy sniffed. “The photographs from the fireplace. I don’t want to forget our family.”

“We won’t.”

 

Friday Fictioneers

The Mill and The Sea

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The Americans seemed bored.

“I will tell a story,” said Magnus, smiling across the fire. “In this village there once lived two brothers, each jealous of one another. The younger made a bargain with the devil. In exchange for his soul, Satan gave him a mill that would grind anything he desired. Satan showed him how to start the mill, and how to stop it.”

The woman was paying attention, at least.

“This brother soon was the richest man in the village, grinding out gold and silver. But he coveted his older brother’s wife. He traded the mill for her. He showed his brother how to start the mill, but not how to stop it.”

“What happened?” the woman asked.

“The brother went on a sea voyage. He used the mill to salt his porridge. The unstoppable torrent of salt sank the ship and filled the sea.”

 

What Pegman Saw: Norway

There are many versions of this Norwegian folk tale that explain why the sea is salty, including a description of a milling machine that “worked with the order of a person”  and filled the sea with salt because of a man’s greed. I suspect this variation is German, since it includes both a deal with the devil and a foolish error that causes catastrophe (both staples of Teutonic lore).

Obvious

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It is the obvious thing we find

may never be understood,

a phantom limb that begs to bear weight

The last place we look

is where we find it. Only

a fool would keep looking, then.

A bed showing the shape of sleeper

is unmade, sloppy. The pea under the mattress is a thing

you would have to be stupid to believe.

Maybe, then, it’s true. Maybe the fault lies

in me, limbless and pressed down into the sheets,

maybe this is the thing I will not ever see.

 

 

The Daily Post: Beloved